Arsenic is a metalloid whose compounds (species) exhibit
significantly different levels of toxicity, e.g. inorganic arsenic
is classified as a class 1 carcinogen by the International Agency
for Research on Cancer whereas organoarsenicals in foodstuffs are
thought to be less toxic.
Humans can be exposed to arsenic through their diet, the
environment and from occupational sources.
Occupational exposure to inorganic arsenic may occur in several
industries: refining or smelting of metal ores, microelectronics,
pesticide manufacture or application, semiconductor manufacturing,
glass production, wood preservation, joinery, battery
manufacturing, and working in power plants that burn arsenic-rich
coal. It is also possible that workers in waste management
and landfill sites may be exposed to arsenic.
HSE Science and Research Centre offers biological monitoring for
five arsenic species in a urine sample. These five species allow
both dietary and occupational exposure to be assessed. Total
arsenic analysis cannot differentiate between non-toxic dietary
arsenic and the toxic inorganic arsenic.
The major route of excretion for arsenic in the body is by urine
and following an exposure most arsenic is excreted within 48 hours.
Samples should be taken post-shift towards the end of the working
week. Sampling should reflect normal working practice.
HSE scientists will help interpret results from samples that we
have analysed where required. We have also established background
levels of each of the five arsenic species in unexposed people.
Back to the top